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Monday, May 8, 2017

What’s in your wallet?



The salary question

The movement to remove the criminal history question from employment applications has been steadily gaining popularity over the last several years. Ban the Box (referring to the checkbox asking if an applicant has ever been convicted of a crime) laws have been enacted by cities, counties, and states. Most affect only government applications but a few apply to the private sector. They are currently 26 states and 150 cities and counties. Maryland is one of those states and the laws applies to state government applications only. While it is not against federal employment laws (past bills in Congress have failed) the EEOC strongly encourages employers not to base hiring decisions based on the applicant’s criminal history.

Another interview question under scrutiny is the salary question-“What is your current and/or most recent salary?” Proponents feel that asking the question will help correct salary disparities by not basing offers on past pay. Arguing that pay should be offered for the position, based on market values, not the person. Employers feel that the new laws are more government intrusion that affects hiring and hurts their overall business.

The attention to this question comes from the equal pay for women campaign, which is gaining popularity on political platforms. Women earn roughly 80 cents per dollar compared to men based on information form the U.S. Census bureau. This pay disparity tends to follow a woman throughout her career when new salary offers are based on current or past history.

Pay equity laws

As with Ban the Box, once the wave starts rolling it does not take long for cities and states to follow suit. The National Conference of State Legislatures lists 43 states with equal pay laws that prohibit discriminating between the sexes. However, Massachusetts was the first to enact a law that specifically prohibits paying a woman less than a man.

In August 2016, the Governor of Massachusetts signed into law the Pay Equity Act, which will take effect July 1, 2018. Under this law it will be illegal for employers: to pay men and women differently for comparable work, screen applicants based on past salaries, contact the applicant’s former company reference salary, and restricting employees from discussing their salaries.

After Massachusetts big cities quickly passed laws. Philadelphia became the first to enact such a law, which was to take effect in January 2017, but is delaying implementation awaiting a federal ruling on a petition to block the law. In April 2017, New York City barred employers from inquiring about salary information.

This issue is gaining attention at the federal level as well. In September of 2016 the Pay Equity for All Act of 2016 was introduced to the United States House of Representatives and is still in committee. The original proposal would make it illegal to screen prospective employees based on their previous wages or salary histories; ask for previous wages or salary; or fire or retaliate against any current or prospective employee because the employee opposed disclosing salary information.

Maryland’s equal pay act took effect October 1, 2016 when The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act of 2016 was enacted. The law applies to employers of any size and extends protections to gender identity as well as sex and bars employers from prohibiting employees from discussing or disclosing wages or those of another employee. The full law can be found at Maryland Equal Pay for Equal Work 
  
See our blog archive for more Ban the box and hiring discrimination posts:


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